Independence Day in America

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I started to write this blog post about what Independence Day, the Fourth of July, meant to me. But, I changed my mind. Independence Day only means one thing and it should mean the same thing to all of us. This day, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, marks the birth of the United State of America. Our independence from Great Britain in 1776.

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, in Philadelphia, they knew that Great Britain would certainly take issue with the American colonies breaking away from their mother country. They knew they were effectively declaring war. They knew that the American colonies did not have the numbers of people or weapons to fight off the British. They had faith that they would, somehow, prevail.

Four days later, the real celebration began. The Continental Congress was still meeting. The Declaration of Independence was read. The Liberty Bell rang. The coat of arms of the King of England was taken down and the celebration began. The United States of America came to life.

What followed was the American Revolutionary War between the 13 colonies and the British Crown. It lasted through approximately 1783 and was a bitter and bloody battle. The French entered the war in 1778 and assisted the Americans. By 1781, the Americans had basically won their freedom. On September 3, 1783, in France, the British recognized that the Americans had won their freedom in the Treaty of Paris.

The British set sail for America. Our freedom was hard won by hard scrabble colonists against professional British soldiers more than 200 years ago. We became a republic, a democracy, then, and have been a shining example of hard-won freedom since. We’re reminded on this day, the Fourth of July, how hard those colonists fought and under what terrible circumstances. Many of us in America have ancestors that fought in that war, myself included. We have a stake in America’s freedom. We should celebrate this day and be sure that America beats the standard that democracies usually don’t last more than 200 years.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you in the United States of America!

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Hospitality in the Retail Sector

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I went to a new day spa last week. I really enjoyed my experience there. Part of the reason that I did was their hospitality. Of course, that is supposed to be part of the experience at a day spa. You pay for a period of hospitality and pampering, although some are better than others. I have visited other day spas that were also very hospitable and some that were not. I doubt the ones that were not stayed in business very long since hospitality is part of the business model for day spas.

During and after my visit there, I started thinking about business today and how inhospitable most retail business is to customers. I don’t shop much in brick and mortar stores, preferring to do most of my shopping online. But when I do shop in the brick and mortar stores, it always strikes me how retail stores could do so much better from a profit perspective if they were only hospitable to their customers.

The sales staff in large retail stores certainly never make a move to help the people shopping in their stores. That attitude trickles down to even the smaller, boutique retail shops. Although the smaller shops occasionally help their customers, particularly if asked, I would not call them hospitable. In most stores today, sales staff seems almost non-existent and the staff that does exist seem to prefer to stand around talking to each other instead of helping customers. I’ve even had sales staff tell me that the product I’m looking for is available online but not in their stores, so I would be better served by shopping in their online store.

When I hear that vocalized, I always wonder why there is even a brick and mortar store there? If they don’t have their own products nor the sale staff that wants to sell them, why don’t they move to 100% online? They would save so much money.

I call the current attitude of many retail stores the “Wal-mart Mentality.” Anyone who has read much of what I write knows my issues with Wal-mart. Wal-mart may have provided a low-cost way to shop but trying to find assistance if you are shopping there is impossible. There are not hospitable. It seems that, since Wal-mart came to communities, other retail outlets have adopted their business model of not helping or caring about their customers.

I’m left wondering how much more profit retail businesses would make if they would be more hospitable and helpful to their customers. If they trained their sales staff in courtesy and hospitality, I would guess they would see their profit margins rise.

The Day in the Porch Swing

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It was about 1980. I was a grownup. Married. Living life on my own. But with regard to some things, I think you always stay a child. This was one of those things. I was at my grandparent’s house with my mother and my aunt and uncle. They were helping get my grandmother ready to leave her home and live with one of her daughters. It was a hard day.

My grandfather had passed away several years before. The family had tried to leave my grandmother in her home by providing help for her, but that just hadn’t worked out. It was time to do something else. She was quite elderly, almost 90 years of age. Young for her age, however. I remember how beautiful she still was. Still smart, savvy. She was a tough Eastern Kentucky lady. It hadn’t been many years since she was squirrel hunting. I was always a little scared of her, but I admired her.

I remember that I tried to help but, typically, my mother wouldn’t let me. I spent most of that day sitting on the old porch swing. Many homes in my part of the world, back in those days, had wide front porches that went the full length of the house, where family and neighbors gathered in the evenings for fun and fellowship. There was always a porch swing. It was my favorite place to sit at my grandparent’s house and, I suppose, in the back of my mind, I knew this would be the last time.

As I looked around, it occurred to me what a beautiful place it was there in the eastern part of Kentucky. My grandparents farm was in a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by hills rich with valuable hardwood timber. Not only did the residents of the valley farm, but fossil fuels lay beneath the surface and there was drilling for oil and natural gas. A beautiful, rich place. I’d taken it for granted growing up. I didn’t anymore.

My uncle had passed away a year before my grandfather. As I sat there in the porch swing, I had thoughts of those who had gone before me on that patch of ground, especially my beloved grandfather and uncle. I could see my uncle pull in the driveway in his postal service car. At that point, I heard the sound of tires on gravel and I looked around. The car in the driveway looked like my Uncle’s car. I thought to myself that it wasn’t possible. He had been gone for a while now. I felt like I just blinked my eyes and I saw my Uncle leaning against his car as he so typically did, grinning at me. I wanted to call for my mother, but there wasn’t time. The next thing I knew, he was walking up the road with his back to me, but he seemed just to be a shadow. I watched him walk. As he walked away, he slowly disappeared.

I just sat there, in that old swing, for a few moments. There was, indeed, a car in the drive but it wasn’t my Uncle’s. I knew that I had seen him. I had never had such an experience before. It somehow gave me peace, not only about my Uncle but about my grandmother leaving home. I don’t know how to explain that further. It was a bit of a spiritual journey for me. The day in the porch swing.

Discover What You Need

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No matter how old or young we are, we constantly discover things we need, and don’t need, in our lives. I have been slowly discovering, over a period of time, what I need. But I only just came to a decision regarding what to do about it. Sometimes, discoveries are difficult, even painful. My discovery about what I need to do with my life isn’t painful, but it is going to be rather difficult even though on many levels, it’s exciting.

My decision. I have to move. Change my residence. Have a new place to live. Have some new experiences. When I say that I have discovered I have to move, I don’t just mean to the next town, I mean 1000 miles away. South. Near the ocean and where the weather is always warm. Margaritaville. Paradise. I guess that gives you a clue.

I moved from the city to the country 18 years ago. I grew up in the country, right in the area to which I moved. I moved because of my career. It’s true what they say. You can’t go home again. I haven’t been happy since I moved back to the country. I guess I unknowingly became a city girl in the 25 years I was away. When you move away from your hometown just 2 1/2 years after high school and stay gone for 25 years except to show up there for your job and drive back to the city to go home each day, you lose touch. You lose touch with the people and the culture. You lose touch with your friends that still live in your hometown. You lose touch with the culture they live in. You become different over the years and so do they. My hometown, where I worked but didn’t live, became different right under my nose. I’ve been lonely since I moved back to the country.

I’ve thought about just moving back to the city, but now I’ve changed and it doesn’t suit me anymore. I have good friends there but things like the climate don’t suit me. I need things now that weren’t so important to me in the past. Warm weather. The ocean. A smaller city with close access to a big city. People my own age with interests similar to mine. Because of the type of career I had, I have friends all over the country. College professors are transient by nature. I’d like to live in a college community.

I need to be close to the conveniences of life. I’m not now and I have to drive a 150 mile round trip to the city to take advantage of those conveniences. Sometimes, I drive to the city three times each week. Often, it is two times per week. I’m tired. I’m tired of that drive and living on the interstate. What I consider necessary conveniences for me may not be necessary for you. What I do know for sure is that the time is coming where the drive is going to be very hard for me. I want to be able to walk out my front door and have a good restaurant within a mile or two instead of 75 miles. I want to expend the energy I use for that drive on other fun things. Like sitting on the beach.

Imagine this. For 23 years, I’ve commuted several times a week, one way or the other. I can’t imagine how many years of my life I’ve expended on that interstate!

It was not an easy decision for me to move 1000 miles from home. I like to put down roots. Completely pulling up stakes and leaving everything familiar to me scares me to death. A wise person once said to me that you should do what scares you. That’s where growth lies. I believe that.

I’m lucky. I still work but I can do what I do from anywhere since I am a writer/consultant.

Soon, we will start house-hunting in the area where we want to live.. Then, in the spring, we will put my house up for sale and hope we can somehow simultaneously sell the house and buy another in Paradise.

It’s scary. Wish me luck! Go out and get what YOU need! #amwriting #amblogging #writing